Saturday, May 17, 2008

Does anyone really know what time it is?

The curse of the night-shift worker

Robert Lamm, vocalist and keyboardist for the classic rock group Chicago, once asked in a song, "Does anybody really know what time it is?" I suspect that he must surely have once been a third shift worker.
Faithful reader, let me impart an amusing story to you:
You see, when you work nights, as I do, it tends to take its toll. Now I love the quiet hours, the dark, the spookiness of going to an abandoned part of the building (as I do when I change for a breaktime run), and the fact that I can sleep the entire day away, or lie on the lawn in the park during the mid summer, while everyone else has to work. I take great pleasure in that.
I also love watching the sun rise over the trees and church across the street from our building. I love hearing the blackbirds start to sing come 4 a.m. I love early morning talk radio, whose moonbat callers often make me laugh out loud. The night shift does have its benefits.
But, there is still a price to pay.
Yesterday, I went to bed around noon. The wife, who was off from work herself, joined me. And we snoozed and dozed for what seemed like forever.
When I finally decided to wake up, it was light out. I looked at the alarm clock, which announced a time of 8:35. Now, considering that it's still light at 8:35 in the evening here at this time of year, I thought it was only Friday evening. I honestly thought, "oh, it'll be getting dark soon, so I'd better prepare to spend an evening with my wife."
I never once entertained the idea that it was anything other than Friday evening.
Squirrel got up about 10 minutes after I did and asked, "Are we going to the pub today?"
I gave her a blank look. "Today?" I asked. "You mean, tonight?" I thought it was really odd that she'd want to pop out for a drink at nearly 9 in the evening, because we don't normally do that.
"Not really tonight," Squirrel replied. "I mean today."
I started to laugh. "Hon, today is nearly over. It's the evening. You really want to go out now?" For a moment, I thought she had no idea what time it was.
The joke, however, was on me.
"Hon, it's Saturday morning," Squirrel said. "It's quarter to nine, Saturday morning."
For a moment, I didn't believe her. Then it all made sense. After all, if it felt like I had slept forever, that's because I really had. More than 20 hours. I really must have needed some serious sleep!
And that is the curse of working nights. You lose sleep. You have to try to sleep while it's light out and while it's considerably noisier outside than at night. You lose track of what day it is, and what date it is. I never know the date. Ask me what date it is, on any day, and I'm likely to scratch my chin and go, "Um ... er ...," until I finally come up with a number that is probably going to be wrong.
I once thought it was February 26 when it was actually the 1st of March.
Doing nights really does your head in.
But, despite all that, I still take great pride to be among the elite, the proud: the graveyard shift worker. We truly are a special breed. Not everyone can work the hours that we do—with the accompanying silence, the dark and the painful microsleeps which afflict all of us from time to time—and I take great pride in that.


kristen said...

Glad someone's willing to do those jobs. Not me. That would totally throw me off.

Nightdragon said...

Well, I've been working night shift on several jobs -- supermarket, newspaper graphic design and now advertising -- since 1990, so I'm quite used to it and it's what I like. I just love the relative silence and especially talk radio at that time of "day." I realize now, at my age, that a night worker was what I was meant to be.
Put it to you this way: Whenever I worked days, I had a chronic tardiness problem. I nearly always arrived late. Since working nights again, I rarely arrive late. Most nights, I arrive early!
Maybe the night thing is part and parcel of being a dragon. Heh. I don't know, that might be part of it.

East of Eden said...

That is so funny! I wish I could sleep for all of those hours. Insomnia seems to be my friend these days, and it's not a fun as you might think!

Nightdragon said...

I've never said insomnia was fun, Eden. I know for a fact that it isn't. Sleep is so important that someone who doesn't get enough can have his or her life thrown into serious disarray.